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High winds and hail batter eastern San Bernardino County

Heavy winds and hail batter San Bernardino County

Violent winds, rain and hail continued to batter eastern San Bernardino County into the night Tuesday, washing two cars off the highway and into a swollen river and ripping the roofs off at least three businesses in downtown Needles, officials said.

The storm started about 4 p.m., bringing a barrage of rain and winds of up to 60 mph that uprooted trees and knocked down at least 50 power lines across Needles, San Bernardino Sheriff's Department Cpl. Jeffrey Cross told The Times.

Officials estimated that up to 75% of area residents are without power, and said some would be without electricity for at least three days -- a situation made worse by the heat. The high temperature Tuesday was 105 degrees, and highs for the rest of the week were expected to be over 100.

Cross said the Sheriff's Department's water rescue team retrieved two people after their cars were swept off the road and into the Colorado River, which marks the state line between California and Nevada.  

Nevada and California law enforcement were working late Tuesday to close the Mohave Valley Highway, which crosses the Colorado River, fearing that more drivers could be swept off the road. 

"It was a real bad storm cell that came through town," Cross said, adding that it had been raining heavily for more than six hours. "They don't usually last this long."

The National Weather Service issued a flash-flood warning Tuesday night, telling San Bernardino County residents that a storm cell was expected to hover over the area until at least midnight. The heaviest rain was expected in Bullhead, Ariz., just across the California border, the alert said. 

A fast-food restaurant called the Burger Hut and the abandoned Overland Motel in downtown Needles both lost their roofs during the storm, Cross said. One person was injured at the Knight's Inn Needles after a ceiling collapsed. 

At least one driver was trapped under fallen power lines during the afternoon storm, but was not hurt, Cross said. 

Storm watchers in the area took to social media to share photos and videos of the deluge, including vivid lightning strikesrain battering the Colorado River outside Needles and wreckage of a building in downtown Needles.  

For more Los Angeles news, follow @laura_nelson on Twitter.

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